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Industry Commentary

Baby Come Back

A look at some reasons customers don't return

May 29, 2002


Have you ever received a referral from a real estate agent and successfully guided the transaction to settlement only to never see another referral from that agent? Perhaps you felt that you had delivered great customer service, followed-up with a thank you note and placed a few perfunctory phone calls. This left you more confused than ever as to why another referral did not follow.

Have you ever completed a transaction for a customer, ran into them several years later and then found out that they had refinanced with someone else? Once again, you felt that you had done a good job, followed up after settlement and remained totally confused as to why they did not use you again.

As a sales person, time is surely your most precious resource. There is no doubt about the fact that within every transaction there is a significant amount of this resource expended. When you have completed a transaction, you are likely to have:
  • Made a contact;
  • Developed a rapport;
  • Procured an appointment;
  • Guided the transaction to a successful conclusion; and
  • Followed up to make sure everyone involved was satisfied.

The fact that you had to start over again with another real estate agent and/or customer is a significant waste of your most precious resource. Every time you start again, you must expend significant amounts of time making contacts and developing rapport. The quality level of referrals will remain low because there is no higher quality of referral than those which come from repeat business.

How can you avoid losing this opportunity time and time again? In order to fully understand how to construct a solution, we must first analyze the reasons that you may have failed to achieve long term success regarding repeat business. The possibilities exist within three general categories:

  1. The first possibility is that you simply did not ask for another referral. As they say when advertising the lottery: You can't win if you don't play. Every sales person knows that they could increase their level of production if they just asked more often. It is obvious that we should ask new sources of business. When we deliver a reasonable level of service to a customer we tend to assume that they would look no place else for their next transaction. The assumption is false. The agent may be swayed by the next person trying to develop a rapport in order to get their first referral. The consumer may have simply been spurred by a direct mail advertisement to refinance. In other words -- even if you were keeping in touch, you did not ask at the right time.

  2. The second possibility is that the agent and/or consumer was not as happy with the service as you thought. It could be something you said during the transaction, or perhaps you did not return phone calls as quickly as they would have liked. Perhaps all actors (in round table settlement states, of course) were at the settlement table and something went wrong. Because you were the only actor not present, you were blamed for anything which did go awry. No matter how small the problem, why not assign the blame to someone who is not present? Ask yourself -- were you present for the settlement of the loan which was your one and only transaction with that particular agent?

  3. Finally if you were not present at settlement, chances are that you did not exceed the expectations of your target. Exceeding expectations is the true definition of excellent customer service. Perhaps you did close the loan on time and smoothly. In what way did you exceed your target's expectations? Not sure how you could do that? Let's take an example. Suppose after settlement you delivered the following letter to the sales manager (broker) for the real estate agent:

      "Dear Broker:
      I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on having a professional agent such as Mary Smith in your office. We recently closed a complex transaction in two weeks for Mary. The reason that such a complex transaction closed so quickly was due to the great detail and expertise shown by Mary. She is truly an expert and you must be proud to have such a great agent as part of your team. It is no wonder that your company is a leader within the real estate industry."

The next step would be for the broker to read this letter aloud in his/her weekly sales meeting. After all, keeping the meeting positive is one of the goals. Does the fact that your name and letterhead is on the document going to hurt your self-promotion efforts? Will the fact that Mary will post the letter for everyone to see in her office hurt those efforts? Perhaps she will include the letter in her listing/buying presentation package so potential clients will know what the bank thinks of her.

Ask yourself, had you written such a letter, would you have received another referral from Mary? Did you ever exceed Mary's expectations? Can you think outside the box in order to exceed expectations time and time again? This is the stuff from which repeat business is made.

Dave Hershman is a top industry speaker, a best selling author and principal of www.OriginationPro.com.
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